Hiking Bighorn Peak
Bighorn Peak, Yellowstone National Park
Hike #2, Bighorn Peak via the Black Butte Trail
Black Butte Trailhead WK2
Northwest Section - Minimal Traffic
Yellowstone National Park

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Location: Northwest Section (See map to the right)
Difficulty: Difficult - Out-and-back with optional loops
Distance: 12.8 mi/20.5 km round-trip
Elevation Gain: 3,105 ft.
Best time to visit: June-November (The summit may be snow-covered until mid-July)

Backcountry Camping: Yes. 1 site - WF1
Click here to view a list of backcountry campsites for this area.

Full Description: Read the full description or view photos of this hike.
Topo Maps: Beartooth Publishing - Yellowstone National Park

Finding the Trailhead - Black Butte (WK2)
From Bozeman:
Drive 59.4 miles south on route 191 until you enter Yellowstone National Park. After crossing the Park boundary you'll see the Daly Creek trailhead on the left. Another two miles further on the right is the Black Butte parking lot. Look for the small brown trail sign on the left just before the parking lot. Get Directions from Bozeman

From West Yellowstone: From the center of town drive north on route 191 towards Bozeman for approximately 28.8 miles. After entering the Park you'll pass the following trailheads: Bighorn Pass, Fawn Pass and Specimen Creek. The Black Butte trailhead parking lot is on the left a few miles past the Specimen Creek trailhead. Get Directions from West Yellowstone

NOTE - Backcountry permits can be obtained in West Yellowstone at the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center - (307) 344-2876.

Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.

Bighorn Peak Trailhead Location

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Bighorn Peak Overview Map
Bighorn Peak Trail Stats

Trail Details
Trail Condition: Excellent - Well marked
Difficulty: Difficult
Total Mileage: 12.8 mi /20.5 km round-trip
Type of Hike: Out-and-back with optional loops
Wow Factor: Incredible alpine scenery
Elevation Gain: 3,105 ft.

Nearest Towns: Big Sky, Bozeman & West Yellowstone
22.1 miles south of Big Sky, MT - Get Directions
59.4 miles south of Bozeman, MT - Get Directions
28.8 miles north of West Yellowstone, MT - Get Directions

Trailhead Coordinates
Latitude: 45.034275
Longitude: -111.113491

Bighorn Summit Coordinates
Latitude: 45.066976
Longitude: -111.049807

Approx. Elevations
Trailhead Elevation = 6,825 ft.
Summit Elevation = 9,930 ft.
Elevation Gain = 3,105 ft.
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Yellowstone Backcountry Info

Bighorn Peak Photo Gallery
Bighorn Peak Trail Description

Black Butte Trail Description (Trailhead WK2) - Light Traffic

A tough hike that will leave you breathless for two very good reasons—it's a steady climb to the summit, and the views from the top of Bighorn Peak are absolutely breathtaking.

Bighorn Peak is located in the very northwest section of Yellowstone National Park between Bozeman and West Yellowstone on route 191. Bighorn Peak is part of the rugged Gallatin Range which runs north and south through this section of the Park. This is a moderate to strenuous hike with incredible alpine scenery.

From the Black Butte Trailhead (WK2) the hike climbs steadily but easily through a series of small meadows and intermittent sections of pine forest. Black Butte Creek can be seen periodically on the right as you ascend to the junction with the Daly Creek Cutoff at approx. 1.9 miles (7,400 feet). Here you'll enter a beautiful open meadow where the Daly Creek Cutoff Trail enters from the left. Continuing right, you'll cross this large meadow where King Butte dominating the view to the east. On the opposite side of the meadow you'll immediately come to the only campsite (WF1 - stock allowed) at 2.0 miles. (See the photo gallery below for images of this hike and 2 photos of the campsite). WF1 is a secluded campsite about .2 miles off the main trail. The tent site is located on the edge of a small meadow and has easy access to water. Campsite Rating = (★★). Stock parties allowed. Capacity 10.

Continuing on past the campsite you'll head through a wooded section of pine and Aspens before reaching an open hillside. (Note: During the winter this section of the trail can be difficult to follow — there are very few (if any) orange trail markers visible during this section of the hike). After this open section the trail enters another forested area before making a hard right over Black Butte Creek (last chance for water). From here the trail will climb gently through lodgepole pines to an elevation of about 8,200 ft. As you work your way back and forth across these lower drainages you'll be treated to some fantastic views of the Taylor Hilgards/Madison Range to the west and Lone Peak and Big Sky further to the north and west. The massive summit of Sphinx Mountain in the Madison Range will first appear as you reach this section of the trail.

At 9,000 ft the trail levels off briefly as you pass through a stand of dead trees along a narrow ridge. After leaving the forest at 9,600 ft the terrain opens significantly and it's here that the main trail will disappear abruptly. If you continue on a straight line towards the ridge you'll notice the rock cairns that will guide you up the remaining incline to the Sky Rim junction at 9,875 ft. At this point the views of Yellowstone and the remaining Gallatin Range are absolutely spectacular. The trail to the summit of Bighorn Peak continues to the right and drops slightly in elevation (9,826 ft) as you traverse the rocky, exposed ridge (not really that exposed) just before reaching the summit at 9,934 ft. From the top of Bighorn Peak you'll have a 360º view in all directions. Tom Miner Basin is visible to the east and the rugged Gallatin Range stretches to the northern horizon. Electric Peak, the highest point in this section of the Park at 10,992 ft., is visible farther to the southeast.

If you're a seasoned hiker and plan to turn this into a longer loop by traversing the Sky Rim Trail please take into account that there is no water along the ridgeline. This extended loop follows the backbone of the Gallatin Range and will add another 13.5 miles to the hike for a total of 18.4 miles. You can also arrange this hike as a shuttle by leaving one car at the Daly Creek Trailhead and a second vehicle at the Black Butte Trailhead. The hike is only 16 miles if done as a shuttle.

WARNING: The weather in Yellowstone can change rapidly at any time of the year. During the summer months afternoon thunderstorms are very common and there is no easy way down from the Sky Rim Trail or Bighorn Peak if inclement weather moves in. Temperatures can drop significantly within minutes and at elevation the wind will almost always be a factor even on the nicest of days. Start your hike early and be off the mountain by mid afternoon.

Click here to download your FREE Yellowstone Backcountry Trip Planner - Contains backcountry campsite information, backcountry permit information, park service phone numbers, bear management information and hiking/backpacking checklists.

WARNING: YOU MUST BE WELL PREPARED and carry the necessary equipment to make your hike a safe one. You are responsible for your own well-being while trekking in these remote wilderness locations. Help or rescue can be hours or even days away.

Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.

Nearby Hiking Trails
Daly Creek (Trailhead WK1) - Provides access to the north end of the beautiful and rugged Sky Rim Trail.
Specimen Creek (Trailhead WK3) - Provides a direct route to Shelf Lake. Access to Crescent/High Lake and the Sportsman Lake Trails.
Bacon Rind (Trailhead WK4) - This trail exits the park to the west and climbs to the Skyline Trail in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness.
Fan Creek (Trailhead WK5) - A narrow and secluded valley that connects with the Sportsman Lake Trail.
Fawn Pass - West End (Trailhead WK5) - A long but rewarding day hike into the heart of the Gallatin Bear Management Area (BMA).
Bighorn Pass (Trailhead WK6) - Another beautiful mountain pass located high in the Gallatin Mountains.
Gneiss Creek (Trailhead WK7) - A quiet stretch of trail that is as flat as it is long. Wildflowers are plentiful here.

Nearby Campgrounds
Bakers Hole - May to Sept. - Bakers Hole Campground is located 3 miles north of West Yellowstone and has 73 sites and vault toilets. Electrical hookups are available for 33 sites. Campsites are $16.00 + per night. Reservations are not accepted - Get Directions from the Black Butte Trailhead to the Bakers Hole Campground.

Taylor Fork Road - Open Year-round - Taylor Fork Road is approximately 5 miles north of the Bighorn Peak Trailhead on US 191. Campsites are free. There are no facilities. The first few sites are located about a mile from US 191. Forest service road (FSR 134) follows Taylor Creek west and extends deep into the Madison Range/Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area, and provides access to numerous hiking and mountain biking opportunities within the Gallatin National Forest - Get Directions from the Black Butte Trailhead to the Taylor Fork Primitive Area Campsites.

Red Cliff Campground - May to Sept. - Red Cliff Campground is approximately 13 miles north of the Bighorn Peak Trailhead on US 191 and has 67 sites and vault toilets. Electric hookups are available for 26 sites. Campsites are $15.00 per night. Located along the Gallatin River between Big Sky and the northern boundary of the National Park. Bozeman Ranger District/Gallatin National Forest - (406) 587-9054 - Get Directions from the Black Butte Trailhead to the Red Cliff Campground.

Yellowstone National Park Backcountry Permits
All overnight backcountry permits for the northwest section of Yellowstone National Park can be obtained at the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center on the corner of Yellowstone Ave. and S. Canyon St./route 191 in West Yellowstone. - (307) 344-2876. Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.

Post Hike Meals

After a long day in the mountains refuel at one of the following restaurants on your way back to Bozeman.

The Corral located on route 191 - Burgers & Beers - Get Directions
The Wrap Shack in Big Sky - Fresh, healthy and affordable food. Get Directions
Choppers Grub & Pub in the Big Sky Town Center - Get Directions

If you're heading back to West Yellowstone try one of these local restaurants.
Wolf Pack Brewing Co located at 139 North Canyon Street in West Yellowstone - Get Directions
Wild West Pizzeria at 14 Madison Avenue in West Yellowstone - Get Directions

Maps for Hiking Bighorn Peak
Beartooth Publishing Outdoor Recreational Maps
These maps from Beartooth Publishing will cover all of Yellowstone National Park as well as Bozeman/Big Sky/Gallatin Range/Madison Range and West Yellowstone.
For more information regarding these maps click here.

Directions to the Bighorn Peak Trailhead

Click the Map to Launch Directions
From Bozeman to the Black Butte Trailhead.


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